XENIA — Prior to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Warner Middle School Thursday, Journey’s hit “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” blared from a portable speaker.
A more perfect song for the occasion does not exist.
Despite three failed attempts at passing a bond issue to build a combined high school/middle school and one failed attempt to pass a bond issue just for a new Warner, Xenia school district officials never gave up.
That credo led to a bond issue passage in May 2021 and the ceremonial turning of dirt on Thursday was the culmination of herculean efforts by a plethora of participants. And it also marked the beginning of a new chapter for the district and its middle school students, who for years have been learning in an overflowing, outdated building.
“This project has been a long time coming,” Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton said. “I had faith that we would get where we needed to go for our Xenia students.”
And when the 2024-25 school year begins — assuming no construction delays — Xenia Community Schools will arrive at that destination. The 130,000 square-foot building, which can house more than 900 students and will include a storm shelter, will provide the much-needed infrastructure for secondary education in Xenia schools, preparing students for high school and beyond.
Featuring technology built with an eye on the future, the new WMS — being constructed next to the current building — will boast flexible learning spaces designed to adapt to the needs of Xenia’s sixth through eighth grade students. To provide a modern, secure, and dynamic learning center, the facility includes an academic wing with one floor dedicated to each grade, a thoughtfully designed multi-purpose student commons area, flexible classroom spaces, a regulation gymnasium, and more.
“This will be one of the best middle schools in the State of Ohio,” Lofton said. “You’ll be very proud.”
Joshua Day, who is in his first year on the Xenia school board, said the district has made “great strides” and is ready to go to the “next level.”
“What we are doing here today is how we make it possible,” Day, the board president, said.
The project’s budget is $44,765,903, according to district officials. The State of Ohio and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission are kicking in $20,592,315. The local share, being paid for through the aforementioned bond issue, is $24,173,588.
“We’ve had a ton of support from the community,” Lofton said, specifically thanking many groups who had a hand in helping spread the word about the need for a new middle school.
Pete Stephan, who oversees the Doug Adams Trust which has given more than $1.1 million to the school district, said the Adams Trust wants every district facility to be stellar.
“We want to bring back a sense of community,” he said.
By continuing to believe, Xenia school officials are watching it happen.